Democrat Brandon Scott faced criticism about his Baltimore City Hall insider status from other mayoral candidates in a debate hosted Thursday night by the NAACP and the Afro-American newspaper.
From the get-go, Independent Bob Wallace slammed Scott for failing to change the status quo in his current and past positions in city government, saying a new coach needs to step in.
“I'm listening to you talk about what bills you passed and what revelations you had and all that. But where's the beef?” Wallace said. “Nothing has improved.”
The business owner and entrepreneur grew up in the South Baltimore neighborhood of Cherry Hill, where his parents struggled with poverty and racial segregation.
The 64-year-old has campaigned on a promise to close the gap between the two sides of Baltimore — the haves and have nots — saying that his self-described rags-to-riches story makes him uniquely qualified to bring over $1 billion in investments to the city.
Scott, Wallace, Republican Shannon Wright and David Harding of the Working Class Party pitched their crime, education and pandemic-related policies to residents days before in-person early voting begins.
They fielded questions from a panel that included DeRay Mckesson, a progressive activist and former city schools official who ran for mayor in 2016, Kelly Davis, an activist married to Keith Davis Jr., who was sentenced to 50 years in prison in March for the murder of a Pimlico security guard, the Rev. Frances “Toni” Murphy Draper, publisher of the AFRO, and the NAACP’s Joshua Harris, who also moderated the 90-minute forum.
Blue voters outnumber red voters by 10 to 1 in Baltimore, meaning Scott is heavily favored to win the mayor’s race; he netted 30% of the Democratic primary turnout with 43,927 votes compared to Wright’s primary win with 29% of the Republican vote and 1,630 ballots cast for her. Democrats have held the mayor’s office for nearly six decades.
“This is about trusting people who have shown up time and time again to move this city forward,” Scott said.
The 36-year-old progressive from Park Heights has more than a decade’s worth of experience in city government. Scott became City Council President in the spring of 2019, when convicted former mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation led to a reshuffling of City Hall offices.
“Who was there to lead the city, not just coming in right now?” he said. “This is about proven, tested leadership here in Baltimore — leadership that has been out on the street, leadership that has dealt with Baltimore city budget deficits both as a staff person, as a city councilperson, as city council president that wants to build a better system of city government.”
The Democratic stronghold in Baltimore was also criticized by Republican Shannon Wright. The 53-year-old is a pastor, former youth counselor and former Vice President of the Yonkers, New York chapter of the NAACP. Her campaign has touted choice in education and jobs training programs.
“The leadership that was failing before COVID is not suddenly going to improve,” Wright said. “We cannot afford to put this machine known as this city with all of our families and all of our futures in the hands of someone who has been a part of the failed leadership experiment.”
David Harding of the Working Class Party, argued that both Republicans and Democrats have not done enough for working people. The party was certified by the State Board of Elections in March, after submitting more than 10,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.
Harding, who works in computer operations for the Maryland State Health Department, said he didn’t expect to be elected mayor; the 75-year-old was the only candidate to say so.
“We wanted to put the Working Class Party on the ballot because we didn't think the Republicans or Democrats represented the interests of working class people,” Harding said. “We need a new political party for working class people to defend our interests and…. to get control of the wealth that we need to have to meet our needs.”